Halfway through 2018 Marvel Studios has released three films: the culture-shifting Black Panther, the cosmic cliffhanger of Avengers: Infinity War, and now Ant-Man and the Wasp. While that third movie might seem minor compared to Marvel’s other two 2018 offerings, the difference is partly by design. The Ant-Man sequel greatly upsizes the character’s premise while offering a step back from the hero-dissolving intensity of Infinity War.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is the 20th Marvel Studios movie, and the coda to both the company’s ten-year anniversary celebration and its 2018 release schedule. So now is a good time to catch up with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. He’s planning for the future – Marvel has an internal roadmap through 2024 – but not talking about many details beyond the known quantities coming in the next two years. Here’s what he is willing to reveal, and a confirmation that there’s a 50/50 chance Thanos killed your favorite animals.
(Note: Some Ant-Man and the Wasp spoilers ahead.)
The Ant-Man movies feel like a moment to relax and take a breath. Is that your intent as you design the schedule?
I think with this one in particular, you’re absolutely right, it is, as the first Ant-Man was after Age of Ultron. We knew we were coming off Panther and Infinity War and thought, if those worked, and the end of Infinity War worked the way we wanted it to – which it did – that people would be in need of an antidote, of something fun. It’s also to remind audiences that the Marvel Studios movies can be tonally very different; they can be unique from one another. Coming off that giant intergalactic event, having a fun, family-oriented movie is good.
Has that become a challenge in building Marvel’s slate? Where individual films have their own emotional through lines, you’ve almost got that going through multiple movies now.
I think job number one is always the individual movies. We have an idea of what we want those to be, which can help as we’re placing them on the chessboard. But at no point do we ever say “the movie before this is X, so filmmaker, you need to change your movie to be something else.”
Directorial voice seems more prominent in each film now than was the case some time ago.
We’ve had some examples that are very clear, but I think that’s always been the case. I think people had to digest the fact that there was an interconnected universe from a single studio, which sounded like a machine or a corporate thing, but we’re making movies now the same way we were then.
The first Thor is very much Ken Branagh and the first two Iron Man movies are very much Jon Favreau. Captain America: The First Avenger is very much Joe Johnston, and Joss Whedon is entirely Avengers. So almost all the movies you could say that. As we continue to make movies and realize audiences are with us, we can go even further into something strange or funny or cosmic, that allows people like Taika and Ryan, and Joe and Anth, and Peyton to go even further.
How was this script developed?
It was really two entities. Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, who had done work for us on the first Ant-Man film, did an early draft of this. Then it was Chris McKenna and Eric Sommers, who had done the majority of the work on Spider-Man: Homecoming for us, who came on and really did this film with Paul [Rudd]. Coming in, helping with the story, helping with certain scenes. And they’re now doing the next Spider-Man film.
Speaking of, why did the title announce when it did? [The Spider-Man: Far From Home title was “leaked” just hours before our interview.]
There are certain logistics of the way these movies are made that meant that title would potentially be leaked in some way because it was going out into the world in various forms. So Mr. Holland took it upon himself to leak it for us.
Ghost fits into this movie really well, and there’s clearly an opportunity for her to return. How do you make the decision to explore characters further? Is it based on audience response, or have you already made that decision?
It varies. In this case, the story was always – spoiler! – to keep her around. This was not the story of defeating a villain and everybody cheering. This is a different kind of villain story. When and where – in the tag, he mentions “his new Ghost friend” – is something we’ll see. But there’s nothing better than struggling over the decision about what characters to bring into a movie, casting those characters, writing and putting them together in a way that works in the movie, and then have audiences go “we love them, when are we going to see them again?” Shuri for sure is a great example of that. So with Ghost it is, step one: complete. As for step two, we’ll see where we go with that.
You’ve gone to another partner team (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) to direct Captain Marvel; how has that system worked out.
Well, we’ve worked with Joe and Anthony for many films, and while those are the only directing partners we’ve worked with, we have worked with a lot of writing teams. What we’ve found working with partners is everyone has their own creative back and forth. This has been excellent. Anna and Ryan have made many movies together, and they’ve got their working relationship down pat. Frankly, it’s not dissimilar from Joe and Anth. Someone takes the lead on story, the other takes the lead on visuals, but then they ultimately interact on both. It works! It works with Joe and Anth, and knock on wood, so far, with nine days to go, it’s working with Anna and Ryan.
Where are you on Avengers 4 now?
We’re just starting the edit. The brothers have worked on their cut, and we’ve been together in the editing room for a couple weeks now, so it’s very early days. But it’s much earlier than usual, right? Usually we’re still filming. Captain Marvel comes out in March, while this one comes out in May and we’re already starting. It’s fun to get a jump, it’s good having already shot the majority of the movie. So we’re just getting into our traditional editorial process now.
Does the extra time create opportunity to indulge ideas?
Theoretically. We try – what’s the analogy, that a goldfish will grow to the size of the bowl? Ant-Man and the Wasp had very little post and yet we made a lot of strides in post, and we did a lot of very good maneuvering on it with the limited time we had. Avengers 4 has much more time; Ragnarok had much more time and we did a lot. You always fill the time you have. Either you have a lot of time and it really motivates you to think things through, or you have no time, and it really motivates you to think things through!
A few years ago you did a big event in Hollywood with a lot of announcements, and now you have very few things set on the board. Is there a strategy change in terms of positioning films far out?
The main strategy is that in many ways I feel like we’re still in the midst of delivering on the promise from that last event! We’ve still got Captain Marvel and Avengers 4. Those are the big ones left to go, having just finished this. So it’s about completing the promise before you start promising a whole lot of other things.
Obviously people are aware of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Guardians 3, which James [Gunn] gets into prep on very soon. Outside of that, we like the idea of having the world do what we’re doing, which is focusing on the immediate future. Once that happens, we will – I don’t know that we’ll do exactly the same kind of thing, that many years out – but there are secret vaulted doors in Marvel Studios that lead to essentially what we’ll be doing between now and 2024.
Presumably that involves Black Widow, the development of which we’ve begun to hear about.
We’ve started to, yes, within the last six months or so we’ve started to engage on certain developmental levels on a lot of those things going forward. Which of those will be made, when they’ll be made – the ones that bubble up to the top are the ones people have heard of. But that’s all I’ll say about that.
I do need to confirm something about the outcome of Infinity War, and apologies if you’ve addressed this – the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp led to conversations. Are half the animals dead? Are half of the horses gone? Half of the ants?
Yes! Yes. All life.